Cupping Skills Exam

Time: 4 Tests, 60 Minutes each
Passing Score: 80% (86 Points)

The core of the Q Grader course are its four cupping flights. Each flight includes six coffee samples and one reference set used for discussion and calibration before exam time begins. These include tables of:

  • Central American coffees
  • Asia/Pacific & Indonesian flight
  • East African and one of
  • all dry natural processed coffees.

Origins shown above are in no particular order.  Courses conducted in a coffee growing countries substitute one of the standard flights for a domestic flight.

To prepare, be familiar with SCA’s cupping protocols.  Have some experience cupping coffees from all major world origin groups before taking your Q course exam.  Be able to identify and grade cup characteristics, as well as record your findings correctly on the SCA Cupping form. For a detailed explanation of how to use the form and tips on how to cup coffee, check out the online Q prep course offered by Boot Coffee. Purchase cupping supplies from Prima Coffee here.

Team up with other experienced cuppers and hold tastings regularly — if this is not already a part of your normal daily job or routine.  The goal is to become familiar with the wide variety of characteristics associated from different origins. This is particularly important for cuppers who work in a coffee growing region. Those living in coffee growing regions rarely have the opportunity to taste coffees from elsewhere.

At the end of each flight, scoresheets are entered into a spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet applies mathematical formulas to calculate your performance, which is not public information. Coffee sensory characteristics are graded on the scale of 6-10 for each attribute (fragrance/aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, etc.) in quarter point increments, leading to a unique total point score.

Although it is possible that one coffee sample may be evaluated as having all characteristics graded at the exact same, e.g. “7.0” score, it is not frequent. Cuppers who rate all characteristics as being equal are generally unsure of their performance or otherwise aiming for the statistical middle in a group of cuppers. Cuppers scoring coffees this way will fail and be asked to retake the exam.  The same is true of those who are unable to correctly complete a scoresheet and those who fall too far out of calibration.

Calibrate with your fellow cuppers and instructors and avoid lazy or safe harbor cupping. Experienced cuppers with exposure to many coffee origins and familiar with the SCA form should pass without much difficulty.